Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will Rockets TV Take Off?

Perhaps the biggest sports media story of the year could have its next important development early next week, where a Houston Bankruptcy Court will be the location for a hearing regarding the status of CSN Houston and its future (or lack thereof) of televising the Rockets and Astros games.

This hearing, scheduled for Monday (10/28) at press time, could determine the short-term status of CSN Houston. Which, of course, would also play a role in determining its long-term status. The Astros are looking to get out from under their original deal with CSN Houston which was structured to provide significant income for the team, but has resulted in barely 40% of the local cable and satellite market being able to receive the games. On the other hand, the Rockets, whose regular season with star acquisition Dwight Howard begins next week, are looking for CSN Houston to continue based on a different revenue guarantee than the Astros deal has.

You can be sure that other pro teams will be watching this one closely. Teams such as the Dodgers and Rangers are getting ready to embark on similar huge long-term TV deals, while other teams are eyeing those while counting the days until they can begin negotiations. If the Astros, who were reportedly not paid millions due from the 2013 regular season contract, are forced to continue with CSN Houston and do not receive the multi-millions they were expecting, look for a ripple effect in "new" negotiations around the country as local and regional networks will be less likely to pull the trigger.

Given how much money sports and non-sports fans now pay for their cable and/or satellite TV, without new and even more inflated contracts in place, it will be interesting to see the fallout from this upcoming ruling, if it happens. There is, of course, the possibility of a postponement or continuation.

Meanwhile, ESPN/ABC has finally addressed its long standing (2 seasons) need to have a true host for its NBA studio programming surrounding game telecasts. Sage Steele has been named as the host of NBA Countdown on Fridays and Sundays, even though not yet for those Wednesday night telecasts ESPN provides. With the recently added Doug Collins, along with Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons, the studio will still be crowded with analysts wanting their air time, but at least having a host will hopefully restore order. Why Wednesdays nights are not including Steele is a bit of a mystery, although those nights also will not include Collins and the others. Instead, Doris Burke will be joined by Avery Johnson and Jalen Rose for the studio segments.

The start of the NBA season next week brings its fans four consecutive nights of national doubleheaders, even though a couple of teams will be shown multiple times at the start.
TNT starts with a special opening night doubleheader on Tuesday 10/29 (potentially against Game 6 of the World Series) with Chicago at Miami (including the Heat's championship ring ceremony) followed by the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Clippers. On Wednesday 10/30, NBA-TV airs a live doubleheader with Brooklyn at Cleveland followed by the Lakers (again) at Golden State. On Thursday 10/31, TNT airs a pair with New York at Chicago (again) followed by Golden State (again) at the L. A. Clippers (again). Then, on Friday 11/1, ESPN debuts its studio show with Sage Steele and Doug Collins with the fourth doubleheader in four nights. The opener has Miami (again) at Brooklyn (again), while the late game has the Lakers (3rd straight game) hosting San Antonio. NBA-TV already has single telecast scheduled for each of the following three nights.

ATLANTA: Braves radio remains in WCNN 680 as part of a multi-year renewal, with Jim Powell and Don Sutton remaining as the broadcast team. The games will be moving down the FM dial, with News 106.7 taking over the broadcasts, which had aired on Rock 100.5 since the 2010 season.

LOS ANGELES: With the Dodgers' new TV package set to start with the 2014 season, the play-by-play team has yet to be determined for the road games which Vin Scully does not call. Word is that Eric Collins and Steve Lyons have been dropped. Speculation includes Orel Hersheiser, whose contract with ESPN is up after the World Series ends.

CHARLOTTE: WFNZ 610 The Fan has let go of Brett Jensen about about three years with the station. The Fan has extended "Bustin' Loose with Frank Garcia" from 10 AM to 2 PM, and the afternoon show with Taylor Zarzour and Mark James from 2 to 6 PM weekdays.

MONTEREY CAL: Having those "contests" for a shift on a sports radio station are bad enough when they are for the Sunday overnight slot or some other "Who cares?" time slot, but this one takes the cake. KIDD 630 went as far as to hold on-air auditions with six finalists for a "possible" on-air slot with the station. When? From 3 PM to 5 PM on weekdays. I had to look at the calendar to be see how close this is to April 1st, but it's not. Maybe by the time it is, there will be a contest to audition for station manager.

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